Fake news can take many forms, but is usually distributed as articles, advertisements and microblogs. It’s content is highly-subjective and designed to quickly grab the reader’s attention, regardless of its inaccuracy or outright absurdity. It’s also highly-targeted with the purpose of steering the thoughts of those who consume it. There are several, well-disguised companies that run fake news campaigns. The most notorious of these is Cambridge Analytica, which was reportedly involved in over 200 elections across the world. But after a wave of bad publicity, it fell in 2018 amidst a flurry of other pop-up organizations considered to be malicious in their own right.
The onslaught of data in the Information age coupled with the science of how our brains process information calls for the need for content to standout. The “secret sauce” in a fake news piece, therefore, is its hyperpartisan slant. Content with extreme bias tends to grab the attention of a reader immediately, in spite of how ridiculous it is.
There are also some cases in which the individuals responsible for spreading fake news employ the likes of malvertisements and other forms of cyber attacks. This is particularly true if hacking or social engineering is involved in the dissemination process. The user is baited to click or tap on a link and redirected to domains in which system administrators can do as they please. These websites generate a significant income for disinformation companies so they are hardly ever filtered or screened.
Another reason for the spreading of fake news is more subtle and involves the creation of fake memories. Modern technological practices have become mentally invasive, with simple tasks like email and smart phone notifications used to enhance our memory. Digital misinformation campaigns are known for abusing this strategy to alter our mental programming.
Many who encounter the outlandish claims in fake news articles are likely to dismiss them at the time of reading. In the future, however, the same disinformation can be drawn from your memory as “factual.” For example, in a casual conversation, you might recall seeing, hearing or reading about a particular situation or event but explain to those you’re talking to that “you cannot quite put your finger on it.” This, in turn, perpetuates the fictional information within your inner circles and among those you interact with. Our brains go on to create fake memories that ultimately lead us to believe such disinformation. All this has been scientifically proven.
In summary, the phenomenon known as fake news is a huge change factor in decision making due to the fact that it appeals to the reader’s emotional side. It leads to the generation of false memories which contain an emotional component that can alter the entire way a person views the world.
What’s worst is that there are free tools available on the Internet that can be used to spoof legitimate online sources and generate headlines that appear to be real. And if its underlying purpose is to spread malware, there only needs to be a snippet of information that compels a user to click. Upon doing so their devices can be infected, hijacked or compromised.